Microsoft has released an update to the Cortana virtual assistant built in to Windows 10, and it's making a grab for the browser market: the tool is now entirely tied in to the company's Edge browser and Bing search service.
Named for the rampancy-suffering artificial intelligence from the Halo game franchise, Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and Google's Now: users can ask questions or give commands in a natural language format via voice, and the response or action is confirmed via speech synthesis. Originally launched on Windows Phone, Cortana is a key feature of Windows 10 on the desktop - but one Microsoft has chosen to lock down.
In an update
published late last night by Microsoft's general manager for search and Cortana Ryan Gavin, the company confirmed that from now on Cortana would only function with the company's own software and services. Where previously searches could be sent to Google or any other third-party search engine and links opened in third-party browsers, all Cortana searches will now take place via Bing and all links will open in Edge - even if you already have a third-party browser window open.
Gavin is positioning the move as bringing increased functionality and reliability, rather than as a land-grab for search and browser market share - both of which see Microsoft taking a tiny sliver compared to advertising giant Google. 'As Windows 10 has grown in adoption and usage, we have seen some software programs circumvent the design of Windows 10 and redirect you to search providers that were not designed to work with Cortana,
' claimed Gavin. 'The result is a compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable. The continuity of these types of task completion scenarios is disrupted if Cortana can’t depend on Bing as the search provider and Microsoft Edge as the browser. The only way we can confidently deliver this personalized, end-to-end search experience is through the integration of Cortana, Microsoft Edge and Bing – all designed to do more for you. Starting today, to ensure we can deliver the integrated search experience designed for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box.
The shift affects only Cortana: Windows 10 users are still free to choose a third-party search provider and browser as their default for all other operating system activities, but these choices will be wilfully ignored by Cortana - the first sign, if one was given to fantasy, that the real-world software may be suffering the early effects of the rampancy that so badly afflicted its fictional namesake.